[Marxism] British organisations should confront pro-Israel bullies, not appease them.

Dbachmozart at aol.com Dbachmozart at aol.com
Mon Oct 29 08:28:02 MDT 2007


     

Intellectual  terrorism

For the sake of free speech, British  organisations should confront 
pro-Israel bullies, not appease  them.

By Ghada Karmi 
 
 
10/26/07 "_The Guardian_ 
(http://commentisfree.guardian.co.uk/ghada_karmi/2007/10/intellectual_terrorism.html) " --- - The newest and least attractive  
import from America, following on behind Coca-Cola, McDonald's and  Friends, is 
the pro-Israel lobby. The latest target of this US-style  campaign is the 
august _Oxford Union_ (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Oxford_Union) .  
This week, two Israeli colleagues and I  were due to appear at the union to 
participate in an _important  debate_ 
(http://www.oxford-union.org/termcard?SQ_CALENDAR_VIEW=event&SQ_CALENDAR_EVENT_ID=1110&SQ_CALENDAR_DATE=2007-10-23)  on 
the one-state solution in Israel-Palestine. Also invited was  the American 
Jewish scholar and outspoken critic of Israel, _Norman  Finkelstein_ 
(http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Norman_Finkelstein) . At the last minute, however, the 
union withdrew its  invitation to him, apparently intimidated by threats from 
various  pro-Israel groups.  
The Harvard Jewish lawyer and  indefatigable defender of Israel, _Alan 
Dershowitz_ (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Alan_Dershowitz) ,  attacked the topic of 
the debate as well as the Oxford Union itself. In an  article headlined 
"Oxford Union is dead", he accused it of having become  "a propaganda platform for 
extremist views", and castigated its choice of  what he termed anti-Israel and 
anti-semitic speakers.  
Yet Dershowitz could have restored the  balance as he saw it; he was the 
first person invited by the Oxford Union  to oppose the motion but he declined 
due, as he put it, to "the terms of  the debate and my proposed teammates". 
Dershowitz's article attacking the Oxford  Union appeared in the Jerusalem 
Post in Israel and Frontpage magazine in  the US. [Because of British defamation 
laws Cif has been advised not to  provide a link - Ed.]  
Dershowitz and Finkelstein were  protagonists in a much-publicised _academic  
row_ (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Dershowitz-Finkelstein_affair)  in the US, 
though it is unclear whether this has any relevance to  the Oxford Union 
spat. 
In solidarity with Finkelstein and to  oppose this gross interference in 
British democratic life, the three of us  on the "one state" side - myself, _Avi 
Shlaim_ (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Avi_Shlaim) , of St  Anthony's College, 
Oxford, and the Israeli historian _Ilan Pappe_ 
(http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ilan_Pappe)  - decided to  withdraw from the debate. This was not an easy 
decision, since the topic  was timely and necessary given the current impasse in the 
 Israeli-Palestinian peace process, where innovative solutions are in short  
supply.  
Dershowitz and the other pro-Israel  activists may rejoice at their success 
in derailing an important  discussion. But it is of little comfort to those of 
us who care about  freedom of speech in this country. Last May, Dershowitz 
interfered in  British academic life when the University and College Union voted  
overwhelmingly to debate the merits of boycotting Israeli institutions. He  
teamed up with a British Jewish lawyer, Anthony Julius, and others, 
_threatening_ (http://education.guardian.co.uk/higher/news/story/0,,2099044,00.html)   to 
"devastate and bankrupt" anyone acting against Israeli  universities. 
In another example of these bullying  tactics, the Royal Society of Medicine, 
one of Britain's most venerable  medical institutions, _came under an  
attack_ (http://www.labournet.net/other/0710/summerfield1.html)  this month, 
unprecedented in its 200 year history. It had  invited Dr Derek Summerfield, a 
psychiatrist (who has also documented  Israelıs medical abuses against Palestinians 
in the Occupied Territories),  to its conference on Religion, Spirituality and 
Mental Health. The RSM was  immediately bombarded with threats from 
pro-Israel doctors demanding Dr  Summerfield's removal on the grounds that he was 
Èpoliticalı and biased,  and that the RSM's charitable status would be challenged 
if he remained.  Intimidated, the RSM asked Dr Summerfield to withdraw, 
although they later  reinstated him.  
The power of the Israel lobby in America  is legendary. It demonstrates its 
influence at many levels. _Campus Watch_ (http://www.campus-watch.org/)  is a 
network that  monitors alleged anti-Israel activity in US academic 
institutions. The  difficulties of promotion in the US for scholars deemed anti-Israeli 
are  notorious. The notable Palestinian academic, Edward Said, was subjected to  
an unrelenting campaign by pro-Israel groups at Columbia University with  
threats on his life. His successor, Rashid Khalidi, is the current object  of the 
same campaign of vilification and attack. Finkelstein himself has  been 
denied tenure at his university and everywhere else. The authors of a  recent study 
of the Israel lobby's influence on US foreign policy have  been called 
anti-semites and white supremacists. Former president Jimmy  Carter's book, 
_Palestine:  peace not apartheid_ 
(http://www.amazon.com/Palestine-Peace-Apartheid-Jimmy-Carter/dp/0743285034/) , has earned him the label of "Jew-hater" and Nazi  
sympathiser. The British publisher, Pluto Press, is likely to be dropped  by 
its American distributors, the University of Michigan Press, because  
pro-Israel groups _accuse it_ (http://mrzine.monthlyreview.org/zinn061007.html)  of  
including "anti-Semitic" (ie pro-Palestinian/critical of Israel) books on  its 
list. 
Such activities are familiar in the US.  People there are hardened or 
resigned to having their freedom of  expression limited by the pro-Israel lobby, and 
the threats of Dershowitz  would cause no surprise to anyone. But Britain is 
different, naively  innocent in the face of US-style assaults on its scholars 
and  institutions. No wonder that those who have been attacked give in so  
quickly, nervous of something they do not understand. The UCU leadership,  shocked 
and intimidated by the ferocious reaction to the boycott motion  from 
pro-Israel groups, resorted to legal advice to extricate itself and  announced in 
September that a call to boycott Israeli institutions would  be "unlawful". The 
Oxford Union jettisoned one of its participants rather  than stand up to the 
threats of its critics. The RSM tried to distance the  offending speaker from 
its conference to protect itself from abuse.   
All this is understandable, but it is  exactly the wrong response. Appeasing 
bullies like Dershowitz will not  stop them. It will rather encourage them to 
go further. The question is,  do we in this country want a McCarthyite witch 
hunt? If not, then we must  confront the bullies and expose them for the 
intellectual terrorists they  are, bent on destroying the values of a free society. 
To do otherwise will  invite the fate of all repressed people, cowed and 
intimidated, hating  their tormentors, but too afraid to say so.  






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